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STEPHEN HARPER AND THE ROAD TO PERDITION

The death of democracy is not likely to be a death by assassination by ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment. – Robert Maynard Htutchins

Frank A. Pelaschuk

WHAT? WHO? ME?

In times of trouble, Stephen Harper makes it abundantly clear the buck does not stop with him. Instead, when it comes to blunders, breaches of ethics, and plain old-fashioned malfeasance, when accountability and transparency are called for, this hulking bully and his gang of arrogant asses, prefer to cut and run, to scapegoat, to smear and question the patriotism of critics or, failing all else, throw staffers and redundant allies under buses. They deflect, obfuscate, and flat out lie, gleefully pointing to the faults of others while denying their own, tongue in cheek, eyes and fingers crossed.

Harper and his crew are spineless. Incapable of introspection or of experiencing shame, poisoned by arrogance, smugness, malice, and the corruptive allure of power, not one of them appears to have the moral fibre of even a besotted drunk, unwilling to step forward, to own up to mistakes or to condemn the deliberate acts of wrongdoing committed in the name of their party, preferring instead to resort to the role of vile pit dog savaging all those who dare question or challenge them; they cannot even contemplate the possibility of ever being wrong, wayward and/or just plain stupid.

Even when confronted and cornered, trapped by truth and evidence, even when left with no place to run, no sewer drain to ooze into, can they stop themselves from cravenly squealing with the anguished self-pity of the guilty accused, “I know nothing”. The only outrage Harper and thugs can muster seems always to be the pathetically childish lament one hears in schoolyards, “But you did it too”!

SHILLS

Perhaps simply exhausted by the Senate expenses scandal, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, government leader and defender of the Senate, provided a glaring demonstration of this oft employed, unworthy, and inexcusable political dodge used for so long and with some effect by Harper and his cadre of knaves, bursting into a hissy fit tirade against Tory critics “populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles…”. Whatever the cause for the outburst, it was an embarrassingly scant defence for the imbroglio that threatens the very body, which she chairs. The fact that four greedy senators, three of them Harper appointees, have brought disrepute to her house, the fact that the report released for public consumption on one of them, avaricious Mike Duffy, was scrubbed of its harshest criticisms by two members of the Conservative dominated economy committee, David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, that LeBreton herself had declared the matter on the same individual closed after the declaration by Duffy that he would repay $90,000 of the illegally claimed expenses, appears to neither trouble nor offend her. To LeBreton, these are asides and immaterial; it is all the fault of the Liberals and “their media lickspittles”. It was enough that double-dipping Duffy, Harper stooge, former media superstar darling and major Conservative fundraiser, was repaying the fraudulently obtained claims. Conservatives across the land loudly sang his praises: he had done “the honourable thing.”

LeBreton, characteristically of Conservative shills, perhaps of all shills of any stripe, accepts no responsibility for fostering the public perception that allegations of fraud can simply be cleared away with repayment or, worse, the suggestion that with repayment, no crime has been committed in the first instance. She and the Conservative dominated senate economy committee had ignored repeated calls to have the RCMP brought in. The Duffy file was closed. And the world was happy and went to sleep believing that Duff, good ol’ Duff, had repaid the debt with his own, hard earned money.

In fact, it was only much later, long after Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff had resigned, exposed as the one who actually cut the $90,000 cheque for Duffy, when Duffy was a no show at a public hearing in a second review held by the same Conservative dominated committee that had investigated him earlier, did LeBreton take a breather from attacking media lickspittles to express something akin to dismay and an acknowledgement of something awry, even that, it should be noted, with a self-pitying whine: some members of the senate “had betrayed us.” The egocentrism or wilful blindness is jaw dropping but hardly surprising. By “us”, I have no doubt she meant Conservatives. Had she displayed similar anger over the fact that Canadians had even more reason for complaint, after all, they’re footing the bill, I might have been able to work up a modicum of sympathy for her.

But, when the Senate did act, only after Duffy’s no show at the second hearing, the Conservative dominated economy committee, the very committee that had released the whitewashed report on Duffy, caving in to the public outcry and growing resentment, appeared ready to act at last, reinstating the original unexpurgated report and agreeing to hand it and other documents to the RCMP. Clearly they had had enough of Duffy; angry now with what he had wrought, they would not just let him go, they would toss him. As we know from past experience, once Conservatives determine someone expendable, the toss under the bus is often brutal and swift, though, for Duffy, the Conservatives certainly showed considerable restraint and a puzzling, and unusual, desire to appear more than fair before calling in the police and even then only pushed to do so by Duffy’s own odd behaviour. One needs only contrast his treatment with that of Helena Guergis, another disgraced Conservative member, who was extended none of the courtesies or support offered Duffy. When her problems surfaced, she was not only expelled from the Conservative caucus, the police were immediately called in and Harper, with his inimitable style, abetted by his lowlife crew, set about to methodically wage a vicious and vindictive campaign that effectively ended her career as a politician.

Now that Duffy has been dispensed with, and with the recent leak of an email to a Conservative insider from Duffy (possibly leaked by the PMO) clearly outlining his desire to maximize the benefits of his Senate appointment, even angling for a position in cabinet, it is all but certain that he will meet a similar fate to Guergis if not worse. One thing is certain: notwithstanding concerted Conservative efforts to protect themselves by protecting him until he became a liability, good ol’ Duff’s reputation has been destroyed. If tears are shed, it’s likely by Duffy.

I’M SORRY, I DON’T KNOW WHY, IT’S YOUR FAULT

But, while it is the Harper pit dogs, Pierre Poilievre, Eve Adams, Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, et al who usually and with relish do the dirty work outside of the House, seldom varying from their script of the day and, only occasionally, showing signs of discomfort from swimming in all the muck, Harper himself is not above joining them though it’s clear he doesn’t like the idea of dirt sticking to him. When the story of the Mike Duffy/Nigel Wright deal broke, Harper was asked about what he knew of the $90,000 gift. Immediately one could almost hear the massive Conservative cog shift gears. Harper and his stooges across the Conservative landscape blinked, loudly sang the praises of Wright, Poilievre, that unlikable, oleaginous hack, almost breathlessly reverential, claiming Wright had done “the exceptionally honourable thing” and Harper reaffirming his full confidence in his chief of staff. Well, that confidence lasted all of two or three days. Wright was gone and Sen.Tkachuk was talking to those media lickspittles admitting that he had spoken to the Prime Minister’s Office and to Nigel Wright while Duffy was under investigation. Had he talked to Harper? That was the question in need of answering.

But Harper wasn’t taking questions. After addressing his Conservative senators and MPs with an invited media in attendance May 21, still not answering questions, Harper flew to Peru and Colombia on a trade trip. While in Peru, he did reiterate his anger over the crisis at home adding something new and, for Harper, something that must have come particularly hard because so unfamiliar to him: he uttered the word “sorry”. And I bet he was. But not sorry enough to own up to any of this.

When he returned to the House, May 28, nine days after Wright had resigned, still not having answered questions, Harper finally respond to intense questioning by an effective Mulcair and Trudeau. As expected, he denied all knowledge of the $90,000 gift to Duffy, the deal negotiated and whether or not there were documents. It was the classic plausible deniability defence that no one could refute yet any really bought. That Wright, Harper’s chief of staff in the PMO, could engage in this deal without Harper being made aware stretches one’s credulity. How was that possible?

This is the man, after all, who maintains strict control of his office, his caucus and his message. He did not know what had happened in his own office by his own right hand man and yet, on questions regarding Pamela Wallin’s expenses, he was able to say months ago, and with a straight face, that he had seen her documentation and they were “comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” That he would know more about Pamela Wallin’s expenses than about the machinations in his office is rather remarkable to say the least and certainly very difficult to believe. Two months later, still under investigation and just days after Duffy had left the Conservative caucus, Wallin did the same, forced to do so by Harper. In question period, when asked why she had been asked to resign and what had changed that made him ask for her resignation, Harper evaded the question. Same old, same old.

WHO’S THE HYPOCRITE? YOU ARE! NO, YOU ARE!

In Harper’s absence, Conservative MPs engaged in the familiar pattern of obfuscation, stonewalling, misdirection, and deflection. When questioned about how much Harper knew about the Wright/Duffy matter and the alterations to the audit report on Duffy, the MPs suggested that, if dissenting members to the senate economy meeting who had not signed off on the report were unhappy, they should have released a minority report of their own. Of course, Conservatives were playing to the public as they always do and without informing it that Senate rules do not allow for such reports.

As well, this nest of vipers, and Harper would pick up on this with his return, began to attack the credibility of Thomas Mulcair on two fronts perhaps smelling blood. They went after him for first claiming in 2010 he had never been offered a bribe and then disclosing, when approached by the police two years ago, the Mayor of Laval, Giles Vaillancourt, approached him in 1994 with an envelope suggesting he could help Mulcair. Mulcair states that he did not see the contents of the envelope and that he walked out and, because he had, there was no bribe to report, just a suspicion. The other issue is that of NDP member, Tyrone Benskin who had failed to pay provincial taxes to the tune of $58,000. For the gleeful Conservatives, these two events are clear evidence of Mulcair and NDP hypocrisy.

These are serious issues. Benskin was easily dealt with, Mulcair removing him from the shadow cabinet, stripping him of his deputy critic role when he found out. The other matter is not so easily explained and does need a more definitive response for Thomas Mulcair. If he thought a bribe was being offered, why not approach the police, even if he believed that there was not enough evidence at the time to charge and/or convict Vaillancourt? And why wait all these years before making it public? Clarification is needed from Mulcair.

That said, however, the Conservative attempt to make hay from this rather than answer questions regarding the Senate scandal, is just another example of deflection and diversion. This is where the Harper gang prove themselves unworthy of the positions and trust they hold. They cannot continue to bend the rules and play the playground bullies and then offer the cowardly whinge when confronted, “But you did it too!” It’s childish and we need more than children governing our country.

As well, there is no moral equivalency. Pointing to the crimes of others does not absolve one from one’s own crimes. In other words, the Conservatives have only pointed out that there is a reason to do something about the Mulcair issues but have offered no reason why something should not be done about the Senate scandal, the Duffy/Wright $90,000 “gift”, the doctored report, and the role Conservatives, Harper and the PMO played.

LET’S TALK ABOUT THEM

Just recently, the oily Tony Clement embarked on his own version of deflection. No doubt aware of the unjustly low esteem in which civil servants are held by the envious public and quite willing to exploit that, perhaps hoping this will be sufficient to distract voters, Clement announced his intention to have all public servants undergo rigorous performance reviews with the goal of ridding all government departments of “deadwood”. Those who agree with this may be ecstatic but they would do well to consider Tony Clement and his performance rating before they dance. This is the man, during the G8 and G20 conferences a few years back, who set aside $50 million as a boondoggle slush fund for his riding. This is the man who, as president of the Treasury Board, mislaid $3.1 billion in taxpayer money.

But this move against civil servants is mere distraction. Conservatives are hoping that voters are really as stupid as they believe. Voters, however, would do well to look at Harper and his performance, especially as a judge of character. Can it be trusted? Let’s look at a few examples:

Does anyone recall Harper’s contempt of parliament citation or that he cut and ran twice, shutting down Parliament?

Some in Harper’s gang still believe global warming is a myth.

Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, called environmentalists “radicals” suggesting they were stooges for foreign interests. He still has Harper’s support

Despite evidence to the contrary, Harper’s gang would have you believe that crime is on the rise and that more jails are needed. Conservatives prefer to play to our fears and prejudices rather than to our hopes and generosity.

Harper has muzzled Canadian scientists with threats of job loss.

He misled voters during the last campaign about the true costs of the F-35s.

He also clawed back disability pensions of veterans.

Harper is the man who appointed three of the four senators involved in the Senate scandal.

He’s the one who had personally cleared Pamela Wallin though, we now know, she had to repay expenses falsely claimed and there is expectation we will hear much more about her.

He also loudly crowed Mike Duffy had done the “honourable thing” when we were all led into believing it was Duffy who had repaid the $90,000 to which he was not entitled and, when that went bust, said the same of Nigel Wright who was the one who had actually settled good ol’ avaricious Duff’s debt. And, of course, Harper knew nothing about it.

Too, this is the man who supported Bev Oda, the minster who forged a government document, who more than once had to reimburse the state for padded expenses and who was finally toppled because of a $16 glass of orange juice.

Harper threw his support for Peter Penashue, the MP forced to resign because of overspending and accepting corporate donations even calling him the best ever MP from Labrador. Clearly the voters didn’t think so in the by-election.

And our slush fund king, Tony Clement? Well, he still has Harper’s support, as does Jason Kenney who used government letterheads to fundraise for a Conservative advertising blitz.

And, of course, we mustn’t forget Arthur Porter, well-known Montreal oncologist, ex-head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) who became a fugitive and now awaits extradition in a Panama jail facing charges of fraud, money laundering, abuse of trust, and conspiracy to commit government fraud. And, yes, he was another Harper appointee.

See a pattern here? Well, it appears Harper and gang know their voters. Some couldn’t care less about any of this.

GOD YOU’RE STUPID!

That Harper and gang can still garner a support of 38% is astounding to me and clearly indicates something wrong. We need to reform the electoral system. Can it really be true that Harper, Hudak, and all Conservatives have accurately gauged the populace as replete with self-absorbed morons more interested in the main chance for themselves than in the greater good of society? Surely not. And yet, apparently so. For some, and they will always be with us, there will never be too much power, too much exploitation, too much having and too much taking. It’s the larger number of voters, however, who trouble me more. These are the ones who sell themselves so cheaply, bought for pennies a day, for whom the promise of lower taxes is apparently sufficient to continue electing manipulative, deceitful, and unethical politicos, such as Harper and his miscreant gang, who consider ethical behaviour, integrity, honesty, truth, fairness and Democracy mere hindrances to be overcome.

We have got to change this.

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About Frank A. Pelaschuk

I am the author of two works of fiction reviewed by Brian Porter, author of Lonely Together and The Atlas Proxies. He called the novel, Serpent in the Garden, "A convincing, seductive tale of coming home to the enemy". Of Ambiguities of Love in Six Stories, he wrote, “Moving, intelligent, and thoughtful storytelling." Both works are available on Amazon as soft cover or e-book where the full reviews also appear.

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